Young Women Need Less “Body Positivity,” More Modesty

Ariel Winter could not be more dissimilar from her character on Modern Family, Alex Dunphy. On the show, Alex is a mild-mannered bookish nerd whose sole priority is academic success, while in real life Winter’s focus is more aesthetic: being fashionable and finding clothing that she believes highlights her “body positivity.” In this case, body positivity is about finding clothes which show off as much of one’s body as possible, no matter that body’s size.

It’s not easy to be a woman these days (though it’s not clear it was ever really easy to be a woman in any day). Every generation of women faces its era’s body ideals, and for the last few decades, the ideal body type in the U.S. is rail thin with blonde hair, along the lines of Taylor Swift and her posse of best friends (excluding Lena Dunham, who has blamed her gorgeous circle of friends for causing some dips in her own well-documented self-esteem).

When your job relies on presenting a certain ideal image, as it does for any entertainer in Hollywood, the obsession you might have with possessing the ideal body type has the potential to become extreme (and unhealthy). When thousands of people are commenting online about your body in ways that can be classified as nothing but unkind and cruel, a woman in the spotlight has two options: change her appearance, or double down. Winter has chosen the latter route, wearing more and more revealing clothing in an attempt to prove she cares not what others think. Of course, given that Winter is choosing her wardrobe and showcasing it in public as often as possible in response to these “social media haters,” it’s clear she does, in fact, care what these faceless and nameless commenters think and say about her body.

By wearing this extraordinarily revealing clothing, is Winter proving something about body positivity? For women whose bodies more closely align with the Hollywood ideal (skinny), being proud of one’s body means showing it off; increasingly, that means showing as much as possible. Actresses regularly walk the red carpet practically naked. But should women of different body types follow the lead of their skinnier sisters towards near-nudity? Winter clearly thinks so, but it’s too bad she is equating body positivity with undressing to a level of near-indecency.

Actress Mayim Bialik, of similar body type and profession, could not be more different from Winter in this regard. One of the few women in Hollywood who prioritizes modesty, Bialik has said, “It’s important, especially for children and men and my sons to hear I’m not ashamed of my body, I just don’t feel the need to display it with two tiny pieces of fabric when I want to go swimming.”

By contrast, in an interview with Seventeen magazine, a publication marketed towards teenage girls, Winter explained why she’s not only wearing more revealing clothing, but also why she’s active on social media despite bullying she receives over her body type. She said, “My sister helped me understand that people will say those things regardless of how you look. I tell myself every day, ‘I look fabulous’.’’

It’s possible, of course, to look and feel fabulous without putting one’s body on display, a concept that seems to have escaped much of Winter’s generation. Modesty isn’t about covering up because you’re ashamed of your body, no matter what it looks like; it’s about honoring and respecting your body enough to know that not everyone is entitled to see every bit of it. If Winter and her generation really felt they had nothing to prove regarding their self-esteem, these young women wouldn’t feel the need to make sure everyone saw as many of their parts as legally permissible.

The motto of “body positivity” activists like Winter should be “Love your body, respect your body.” We are told to do so in many different ways: eat healthy, exercise, moisturize, and exfoliate. But respecting your body comes in other forms too, such as knowing that there are few people who should be given the sacred permission to see all of it.

Every major religion on earth has strict rules regarding who can enter its holy of holies and how they can behave. In Judaism, it was only the high priests who were occasionally allowed inside during Temple period; in the Mormon Church, one has to be silent, and only a Church member in good standing can be allowed in; for Buddhists, visitors must take their shoes off in pagodas and display quiet reverence while inside. Ladies: Treat your body like a temple. Set some rules, establish some boundaries, and reap the rewards of what real self-love and self-respect brings. That’s genuine body positivity.


  • Estoy Listo

    That poor girl. It’s like a public suicide, bit by bit.

  • A Smith

    Remember, Mayim Bialik is middle-aged, and a Conservative Jew, so her point of view is consistent with that.
    PS headline from 2031: “Friends fear for life of 422-pound Ariel Winter”

  • Eldrick Wo

    it’s a lot simpler,LOOK AT ME-LOOK AT ME.

  • Steve Kellmeyer

    “Ladies: Treat your body like a temple.” – historically, women priests have always exercised their priestly function by being temple prostitutes. So, they ARE treating their bodies like a temple. They just aren’t doing it in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

  • m a

    The way we dress communicates something about us. It tells other what we want to convey about ourselves. Dress to emphasize your sexuality, people will notice it and some will act on it. They will hit on an attractive guy or girl. So- if you emphasize your sexuality, communicate that is what you think is important about yourself- don’t whine or complain when people respond. (No- they don’t have a right to touch you).

    We are visual creatures. We’re the descendants of the critters who responded correctly to the visual cues to either breed or run. Its why we have our LEOs dress in uniform, it’s why lawyers/financial advisers try to convey trust and authority with their dress, its why we realize a very unkempt person may have mental issues.

    Confidence men know this, they always dress the part they’re trying to play.

  • kwo

    Good column. One slight correction:

    in the Mormon Church, one has to be silent, and only a Church member in good standing can be allowed in

    LDS church members are not silent in the Temple, but they are reverent.

  • Dragblacker

    “Body positivity” is just license for vanity by women with weight issues, and a way to virtue signal for those who look better. These are the same people who get enraged at the notion of covering up while praising “multiculturalism” when other, more reserved people (in reality, they believe are less advanced) enforce modesty at gunpoint.

  • Abu Nudnik

    I always take naked women seriously. I am very serious about this.


    well I need to task but there is not task

  • CM Dubya

    I’m in the camp of doing whatever works for you.

    If keeping it modest like Mayim Bialik is how you want to express yourself, cool. If flaunting what you’ve got makes you feel confident, cool. Who am I to determine what makes YOU feel good about yourself?

    At least Ariel Winter found it and is running with it, unlike Lena Dunham who still won’t shut up with her oh-woe-is-me BS at age 30…

  • vadimfv

    Sorry to point out the obvious, but there is a third option for “women in the spotlight” other than 1) change your appearance and 2) double down [which could actually be the same thing, anyway]. The option is 3) do nothing, simply cease to care what other people think (and that includes arbitrary strictures imposed by religion) and continue being yourself. That’s a simple, down-to-earth definition for trendy Tumblrist terms like “body positivity”.

    Also, Ariel Winter (in specific) looks fantastic. Classic Greek beauty – eumorpho koritsi! If she can pull that off, while avoiding the pitfalls of say, a Lindsay Lohan-type outcome, then more power to her. I’m sure despite her success on Modern Family, she doesn’t want to be typecast in nerdish roles all of her life, and this approach assures she won’t be. In a perfect non-judgemental world, she’d be cast in a comedy lead, a romantic lead or an action lead, and I hope that happens for her, even though she’s already very successful, it seems.

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